When it comes to actions and false claims that weaken democracy and undermine faith in elections, there is no safe middle ground.
Years of fear-mongering about voter fraud under the guise of “election integrity” have led to the current historic push to erect more barriers to voting. Bogus election reviews have done little to wash away false beliefs that the 2020 election was stolen, despite professed goals to merely verify the (already verified) results.
In fact, calls to overturn what was a free and fair election are still being made and are just as alarming as they were more than a year ago. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen tension between conservative officials who embraced such democracy-undermining actions and those who believe those actions have not gone far enough.
In Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — who initiated the still-ongoing partisan election investigation being conducted by attorney Michael Gableman — has continued to refuse to entertain calls for the legally impossible action of “decertifying” the state’s 2020 election results, drawing attacks from members of his own party and former President Trump himself. But he also made sure to keep the Big Lie alive by repeating the baseless claim that there was widespread election fraud.
- Vos’ comment came on Wednesday after he privately met with “decertification” advocates and election deniers.
- He provided no evidence, and the “interim” report released by Gableman earlier this month is also not a reliable source for any evidence of significant irregularities. Among other issues, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week that Gableman could not back up his inaccurate claims regarding voting in nursing homes.
- Gableman is listed as a featured speaker for two “exposing Utah elections” events next week, where he plans to discuss the decertification idea that he also backs. Tina Peters, the recently indicted Colorado election clerk, is also set to appear.
- This isn’t the first Big Lie trip Gableman has gone on while conducting his investigation — that includes trips on the taxpayers’ dime, as American Oversight previously uncovered. Vos said late last week that such travel expenses would now be deducted from Gableman’s $11,000 monthly salary.
- Another lawmaker who has expressed support for the decertification push is state Rep. Janel Brandtjen. This week, we published a deep dive into records we obtained showing Brandtjen communicating with prominent election deniers, including those linked to Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell.
In Arizona, similar intra-party tensions have arisen among Arizona Republican lawmakers, as more election-related bills failed in the state Senate.
- John Shadegg, a former Arizona congressman who had been hired to work on the Senate’s partisan and discredited election “audit” is drawing scrutiny for his lobbying on a bill that would eliminate competition for state utilities, raising questions about potential conflicts.
- Also this week, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear Cyber Ninjas’ request that its $50,000-per-day fine — for failing to release public documents in our lawsuit for “audit”-related records — be dropped. The Supreme Court directed the firm to file their claim in the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Here are other headlines about partisan election-review efforts in states across the country:
- House Oversight panel launches investigation into New Mexico ‘Audit Force’ (NBC News)
- Election ‘vigilante’ group posing as county workers, says New Mexico’s state auditor (Daily Beast)
- ‘Forensic examination’ of voting systems doesn’t prove election tampering, experts say (Colorado Newsline)
- Gableman never served some of his subpoenas, raising new questions about the extent of his review of Wisconsin’s 2020 election (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
According to the Guardian, a report released after the election that alleged Trump had lost because of manipulation by Dominion Voting Systems was actually written by Joanna Miller, a top White House aide, and not by Katherine Friess, a Trump-allied lawyer who aided his efforts to reverse his loss. Here are other headlines related to those efforts and the wider investigation of Jan. 6.
- Document in Jan. 6 case shows plan to storm government buildings (New York Times)
- DOJ: Film crew was present at Jan. 5 meeting between leaders of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers (Politico)
- RNC tries to stop 2020 email communications data from going to Jan. 6 committee in latest court effort (CNN)
- Jan. 6 committee not planning to subpoena members of Congress, sources say (ABC News)
- New clues emerge about the money that might have helped fund the Jan. 6 attack (NPR)
- Ginni Thomas says she attended Jan. 6 rally (New York Times)
- Wisconsin Elections Commission won’t sanction Republicans who posed as presidential electors in 2020 (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
With Congress failing to approve billions in emergency pandemic aid this week, the White House warned that funding for vaccine development, testing, and treatment was running out.
- Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, will replace Jeffrey Zients as the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator. Jha has supported the administration’s relaxed public health guidelines.
- The Senate passed a resolution that would end the mask mandate for public transportation and airplanes, undoing the April 18 extension. Biden would likely veto the bill even if it were to pass the House, and Republican members of Congress have also sued the CDC to end the mask mandate for air travel.
- The administration moved $377 million of unspent housing aid in the 2020 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which has helped prevent evictions of poor tenants, to states like New York, California, and New Jersey.
- The New York State Department of Health under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed to report about 4,100 deaths of nursing home residents between April 2020 and February 2021, a state audit revealed this week.
Meanwhile, with cases of the BA.2 omicron subvariant on the rise in Western Europe, experts are concerned about a possible surge in U.S. cases this spring. On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed an increased presence of Covid-19 detected in wastewater samples, which can indicate an upcoming outbreak. The daily average for hospitalizations are slightly more than 25,000 and for deaths around 1,200. Both figures are declining.
- Data show that one-third of all deaths of children under 18 in the U.S. occurred during the omicron wave.
- Pfizer-BioNTech is seeking FDA authorization on a second booster shot for elderly individuals.
- Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, tested positive for Covid-19 this week.
Other Stories We’re Following
In the States
- Texas National Guardsmen on border mission stationed outside wealthy ranches far from the border (Texas Tribune)
- Proposed legislation in Arizona would publish mugshots of undocumented immigrants online (Arizona Mirror)
- Virginia legislature passes bill to close off many police records to the public and the press (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
- Texas and other states want to punish fossil fuel divestment (NPR)
- In Ohio, a standoff over political maps threatens the next elections (New York Times)
- Republicans push crackdown on crime wave that doesn’t exist: Voter fraud (New York Times)
- U.S. continues to exempt unaccompanied migrant children from Title 42 border expulsion policy (Reuters)
- Under Trump, DHS directed to probe bogus claims about voter fraud (Politico)
- VA reveals sweeping plan to shutter aging clinics, hospitals in favor of new facilities, retooled services (Washington Post)
- U.S. pays $2M a month to protect Pompeo, aide from Iran threat (Associated Press)
- Largest federal utility chooses gas, defying Biden’s clean energy goals (New York Times)